MOENKOPI, Ariz. - Moenkopi Developers Corporation (MDC) and Tesla Motors have partnered to bring charging stations for electric cars to Moenkopi in another effort to help economic development in sustainable ways on the Hopi reservation.
MDC put on a ribbon cutting at the newly installed and operating charging stations Sept. 3 at the Moenkopi Legacy Inn and Suites and a question and answer session in the conference center.
Included in the charging station is a 60-amp universal station where anyone who has an electric car, even if it is not a Tesla, can charge their car. The Tesla charger is a 100 amp, and very fast and the 60 amp charger is also a high level charger that will give visitors a fast charge.
MDC is a non-profit corporation created by the Upper Village of Moenkopi to create jobs for all Hopi and spur on economic development. The group developed Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites, the first hotel built on Hopi land in more than 50 years. The hotel promotes activities that connect visitors with cultural activities in all of Hopi through its website www.ExperienceHopi.com. One part of its mission is to promote job creation.
Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by a group of engineers in Silicon Valley who wanted to prove that electric cars could be better than gasoline-powered cars. Its mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable transport.
James Surveyor, project manager for MDC, said he considers this a monumental step forward for tourism in the area and a good thing for the community as a whole.
"We are lucky that we have a possibility down the road to go that route as far as renewable energy," he said. "If you really look at our infrastructure for electricity, those towers up there that crisscross the state, they are really dilapidated. They weren't meant to last this long."
Developing businesses on the reservation takes time and can often be challenging. In fact, when the Moenkopi Legacy Inn and Suites opened it won the Arizona State Award for "Most Challenging Development." To get the partnership with Tesla going and the charges up and running was very technical. It took time to get the resources to make it happen.
"We don't have very many resources out here," Surveyor said. "For businesses to develop on the reservation or in Indian country, we have a lot of the same challenges that rural communities have. But we don't stop, we keep chipping away at things... because we understand the rewards of that effort far outweigh the stresses or challenges. The event [last] week is the beginning of that."
Having a foot in two worlds, a for-profit world and a sustainable world, is one of the reasons Surveyor thinks the partnership with Tesla Motors is a good thing for Native people.
"We look at ourselves as Native people as walking in two worlds," Surveyor said. "Our traditional world and, of course, the modern contemporary one. Tesla is an interesting company - it walks in the corporate world but also the environmental world."
While recharging stations are more common in bigger cities like Los Angeles or Phoenix - there are even a couple in Flagstaff. Heading north into Indian country, there were none until Utah or New Mexico. Now those users have an option to recharge at Moenkopi.
"We have the Grand Canyon here. We have Monument Valley here, Canyon de Chelly. We have got very beautiful country here," Surveyor said. "I think economically, even though it's a small step. Putting Moenkopi on the map with Tesla, providing an option for electric car users, it's the beginning and an option for additional travelers to come through."
Surveyor said that Flagstaff is a gateway to Indian country for people traveling from Phoenix or L.A.
"These kinds of things benefit everybody," he said. "It is just another addition to the puzzle of travel. It's a great option for people who are able to purchase these vehicles that are more environmental friendly and who want to see more of our beautiful state out this way."
While the partnership with Tesla Motors may seem a giant leap to some, Surveyor said that it is important to think of and understand how many different kinds of travelers there are.
"We're in the business of tourism," he said. "We understand that and we want to definitely be good at it because that's what turns in to the realization of our economic goals - to create jobs, to create a better economic future for not only Moenkopi and Tuba City but also Hopi [as a whole]."
While there is no official tribal support for MDC, the corporation, which is only five years old, tries to drive people to Hopi and continues to support and promote entrepreneurs and resources that are available to visitors to Hopi.
"I think it's a good thing and people are starting to believe that," Surveyor said.